MSU, U-M rivalry heating up — in a really good way
Welcome to Michigan State vs. Michigan day!
And to start off with a refresher (as if you needed it) of the feelings in these games, Tom Izzo has a few choice words.
“I don’t like anything about Michigan and they don’t like anything about us. That’s just the way it is and the way it should be.”
Hear, hear! Michigan State fans loathe the superiority complex of Michigan fans. Those loyal to Michigan detest the existence of Michigan State.
That is just the way a fierce in-state rivalry should be, but now there’s more to it than bragging rights.
These teams are really, really good. Michigan is ranked No. 19. Michigan State is ranked No. 9.
The last time the Spartans and Wolverines met while both were in the top 25 was Feb. 17, 1998. Since then, MSU has won 18 of 23 games — with two of Michigan’s wins coming last season.
While the Michigan State side loves this dominance, believe it or not the reality is a rivalry isn’t as fun when one team beats up on the other year after year (similar to what Michigan had previously in football). Just as the green and white has enjoyed a rapid climb back to prominence in football, those in maize and blue currently are living it up with a return to national significance once again.
This is a good thing. Two good teams makes it more fun when they meet. Competition is the fuel to any game and for this one, the stakes have been raised to a national level.
That is exactly the way this rivalry should be and what it has been missing for too long.
Both teams sit among the leaders of the Big Ten, with MSU at 4-1 and U of M at 4-2. The chance to get a leg up in the race and knock the other team down is central to this matchup at Crisler Center.
It could still be a little early, but a win for either side will be listed on its signature wins come NCAA Tournament time and will impact seeding.
But for this game itself, the excitement level is high.
There are stars on both sides, and future NBA players on each roster. Keith Appling, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Trey Burke are three of the most electric young guards in college basketball. Draymond Green and Zach Novak are two of the hardest workers on the court you can find. (Editor’s Note: I hate Zack Novak. Something about his face and hair makes me want to punch him right in the nose. Also, he might be a hipster.)
Seniors like Michigan’s Stu Douglass and MSU’s Green have been through these games and know the significance of winning and losing.
“We’ve still got a ways to go before we get our program to the level where they’ve been at. They’ve gotten to Final Fours, and they’ve been very good the past 10, 15 years,” Douglass said. “We respect them a lot, but we can’t dwell on sweeping them last year and thinking it was the greatest thing ever. I want to go out and sweep them again this year.”
Naturally, Green has the same aspirations of winning.
“I never want to lose to Michigan,” Green said. “And when I leave here, I never want to see Michigan State lose to Michigan. That’s not going to change the rest of my life. This year is where it starts.”
Boom. The Spartans’ senior captain is right — this is where it starts.
The programs are packed with youth and talent, stocked to keep the the fire of the rivalry stoked.
And with Izzo pulling in a top-1o recruiting class again next season, and Michigan’s John Beilein doing the same, the competition level of on-court battles are only going to continue growing and growing.
Here we go, the ante has been upped and importance has been restored. Let the fun begin.